Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not Getting Home

I don’t feel that in all honesty I can review Marilynne Robinson’s Home as I didn’t finish it, in fact sadly I didn’t even get close. Now as I have said I don’t slag anyone’s books off on this blog as I think discouraging people to choose what they wish to read is wrong, encouraging on the other hand is quite a different story. I might hate a book (a very rare thing) and you might love it. If I don’t like a book, as I have said before, there is Rule 80 and sadly Home was one of the books that didn’t make it past Rule 80.

With prose as wonderful as the whole of the first 80 pages were, how could I not continue? This wasn’t a badly written book, quite the opposite, but for some reason it simply didn’t hold my attention. I think in my head there was also what I am naming ‘The Gilead Effect’. I read Gilead a few weeks ago and whilst by no means was I driven by the plot I couldn’t stop reading the absolutely stunning prose it kept me flowing through page after page. I liked the book, I didn’t love it but knowing Home was set in the same village over the same period of time as I picked up the book I found myself thinking ‘I should have given myself a bigger gap between these two’ but as I am reading the Orange list by Wednesday before the winners announced I needed to try and read it.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I read Home so soon after Gilead but I found myself forgetting how wonderful the prose was and thinking ‘this is a cop out, this is an author dishing us up almost the same story in the same village only with a female voice in the mix (which I was actually finding easier to read). I felt a bit like, and I am sure this isn’t true, that having taken 25 years to follow up Housekeeping with Gilead, Robinson had decided to take two yeas to edit re-tell and slightly twist in terms of situation her last book. Sadly this really influenced my reading experience.

I haven’t given up on Home. It has gone into one of my TBR boxes so that one day when Gilead seems to be more of a memory and less fresh in my mind I can read Home and take it as a stand alone book. I am sure the prose will then move me like Gilead’s did I just think sometimes authors and certain books need a big breathing space between them. Do any of you feel like that? What are your thoughts on Home if you have read it?

Note: If Marilynne Robinson’s next book is set in Gilead at the next neighbour’s house then I fear I may not be able to read anything else by her as that would prove a point in my head one that I am trying so hard to dispel.

8 comments:

Kim said...

You make a great point about Home being an edited re-tell of the Gilead story, Simon, I wonder if that was behind the thinking? I really don't like follow on books that rehash an existing story.
I remember being madly in love with Garion (later Belgarion) in the David Eddings series of The Belgariad and later The Malloreon - I bought all ten books as soon as they were published and after the last of the series was out, Eddings wrote Belgarath The Sorcerer followed closely by Polgara the Sorceress. These were personal accounts of the two series of books told from Belgarath and Polgara's perspective. Exactly the same story, nothing added and I felt really cheated.
So, Home sounds like one I will let slip by. Thanks, Simon.

farmlanebooks said...

You're right about blogger not blogging - this post didn't appear until today.

I find it really interesting that you loved Gilead, but couldn't finish this. I agree that Gilead was much better written and I managed to reach the end of it too, but Gilead didn't hold my attention either.

I didn't connect with the characters in either book and so having read Gilead so soon before Home I still had the memory of it close to hand and so gave up Home quite quickly when I realised how similar they were.

Sandy Nawrot said...

While reading this post, I was asking myself "wasn't this the one Jackie couldn't finish?". Indeed it was. I can assure you, with the both of you offering these opinions, I won't be reading it!

Teresa said...

I really loved this book--and Gilead--but I can understand why others wouldn't. I thought the different perspectives on the same events were fascinating, especially when we see the same conversations and events as in Gilead and learn that Glory's and her family didn't see them in at all the same way that John Ames did in Gilead. I generally find point of view to be a fascinating thing for authors to play with, and, for me, the two perspectives ended up enriching each other.

Then again, Gilead is one of my all-time favorites, so I'm happy to revisit it again and again.

Steph said...

Even if the book didn't work for you now, I thought this was a really thoughtful and well-articulated post. There are certain authors of whom I have felt I needed to space my reading out, because they have similar styles/approaches across novels and I don't want to be consciously comparing them to one another (an example that immediately springs to mind is Jonathan Safran Foer - I had heard that whichever of his two novels you read first you tend to love, and find the second one a pale comparison, so I'm going to put at least a year between reading my first Foer and my second!). I really like trying to read and appreciate a book on its own merits; I realize this isn't always possible, our reading experience necessarily colors each read, but if I know there's a way I can enhance a reading experience, I will generally try to do that. I haven't read Gilead yet, but when I do, if I love it, I'll be sure to put a large gap between it and Home!

Candy Schultz said...

Thank god you guys sometimes write about books I don't want to read. Sometimes I read reviews and heave a sigh of relief that I don't want to buy another book. My husband does too.

Jo said...

I don't intend to read this because I couldn't even finish Gilead. I agree that the writing was stunning but it just didn't make mewant to keep reading. I just hope it doesn't win because I've promised myself I'llat least read the winner!

claire said...

I'm sorry if I put a dent on your reading Home! Judging from your perspective, I would think I'd react exactly the same way. I was enchanted by Gilead's prose, which led me along to the last page, but with Home having the same plot I don't think I can muster the interest to finish it, too. I would like to read Housekeeping, though.